I had heard a lot about the movie since it was first announced that the novel of the same name was going to be made into a movie. So I naturally went in with certain expectations of how the movie was going to be, especially since there was a lot of hate from Korean men who felt that the movie was an attack against them. Spoiler: it isn’t. It also isn’t your typical Korean romance movie. But I highly recommend this movie because it is a reflection of the society today, even if just a glimpse (and actually kinder version) of it. Expect to spend two hours thinking about why society is the way it is and hopefully leave the theatres determined to make the world a kinder place.
Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, here’s the actual movie review!
[WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!]
Kim Ji Young (played by Jung Yu Mi) is introduced as an ordinary full-time housewife who spends her days doing household chores and raising her child. We see her enjoying a short break in the park only to overhear a conversation between office workers about how envious they are of housewives who just spend their husbands’ money and stay home all day. She quickly throws her cup of coffee away and leaves. We see how unhappy she actually is although whenever her husband asks her how she is, she always replies that she’s fine.
Her husband Dae Hyeon (played by Gong Yoo) soon realises how much his wife is struggling with her current way of life and seeks help from a psychiatrist but as you may know, the only way to help someone would be for her to seek help herself. However, Ji Young doesn’t seem to realise how sick she is and Dae Hyeon struggles to find a way to gently tell her that she is sick and to encourage her to seek help.
We realise why her husband is really worried about Ji Young because there are instances where Ji Young behaves as if she is a totally different person, as if she is possessed. We see her behave in the personality of her own mother, grandmother and best friend, in what appears to be a disassociative personality disorder. In a particularly poignant scene, behaving as if she is her grandmother, she lectures her mum to not live her life only for her daughter, in a scene which made quite a few of us in the audience cry as her mother breaks down in tears at while hugging Ji Young, at the realization that her daughter is really ill.
Throughout the movie we see many instances of how women struggle in society – from the mum who goes back to work after maternity leave being reprimanded for being late due to her family duties to female employees being filmed secretly (spycams being installed in female washrooms are a real issue in South Korea) to even seemingly harmless comments made by Ji Young’s father when she is being physically harassed by a male schoolmate. As a female living and working in Seoul right now, I can tell you that the movie embellished the reality a lot. But that’s a story for another time.
We also see how men in general have a higher standing in the South Korean society – be it at home as a son or husband or at work as an employee. When Dae Hyeon decides to take a sabbatical from work to be a stay-at-home dad while Ji Young goes back to work, even just for a year, his mum goes berserk and verbally attacks Ji Young over the phone. Even in this day and age, gender roles are so entrenched in society that having a working mum and a stay-at-home dad is seen as something so unacceptable.
Thankfully by the end of the movie, we see Ji Young getting the therapy she needs after her husband shows her evidence that she needs help. Initially terrified, she realises that she needs to get better in order to move on with her life and through therapy, her condition improves and she even finds a way to go “back to work” as a freelance writer. We also see her husband Dae Hyeon going against gender stereotypes by playing a more active role as a father – picking his daughter up from daycare. It’s unclear if he did take a sabbatical after all but baby steps!
Despite the somewhat positive ending, the movie left me with a very bitter feeling. Perhaps because I grew up female in an Asian society but there were so many relatable moments in the movie which made me angry and upset. It’s undeniable that we continue to live in a patriarchal society and males are always held in higher regard than females (males earn more than their female counterparts for the same role, for example). However, it is also undeniable that the situation has improved over the past few decades. It is but a small hope that society will continue to improve.
The movie definitely made me reflect a lot on life and the state of the world. Which is why I hope you’ll watch it too. Together, we can make the world a better place by being kinder to everyone we meet.
The movie is still in theatres so catch it while you still can: